14 November 2014

Cans at Theatre503 was funny, intelligent and dark


Theatre503 in Battersea has become important to me through the sheer quality of the plays that I have seen there, all of which have been intelligent and absorbing.

It also helps that it is just a short hop from home and is situated above a pub. That is particularly helpful when trying to squeeze another play into a busy schedule as it does not take that much time away from other things, like ironing, and the evening is that much less tiring. And so it was that I was able to go there on a Friday evening to see Cans.

I went to the pub first and played with some cheese and beer, both good though I could have done with more biscuits to go with the cheese, before climbing the awkward stairs up to the theatre. I was first person up there (intentionally) and that ensured that I got my favourite seat in the middle of the front row. There I sat looking at two empty chairs in a garage.

The chairs were soon filled by a young woman (played by Jennifer Clement) and her uncle (Graham O’Mara) who were busily engaged in the act of drowning mice that had been caught in humane traps.

The language and subject matters were fruity from the start and their dialogue employed both the F and the C Scatter Bombs. Like Shakespearean English that took a moment or two to get used to but quickly seemed natural.

The garage had belong to the girl's father and the man's brother, who had recently died. He had been a chat show host, had been knighted and had climbed Mount Everest in a Yeti suit for Children In Need, but had also been hit by scandal and had apparently killed himself despite protesting his innocence. There were many direct references to recent scandals and that helped to give the play an immediacy.

We quickly learned a lot about the woman and the man, and the dead man too, as they cleared the garage, though the woman shrugged off the question from the man about her personal shaving habits, it was that sort of thing they talked about.

Cans was just the sort of dark comedy that I love in that parts of it were really dark and other parts were really funny. The dark parts included the woman talking about abuse she had had at university and the funny parts included the man's ability to conjure cans of cider from various parts of the garage.

Their conversations took place over several months during which things happened outside of the garage as the dead man's affairs unravelled. That made the future as uncertain as the past. Things reached a point where some decisions had to be and the play addressed that with a clever ending that I am not going to spoil.

Reading the reviews now (I never read them before going) I see words like "intelligent", "humane" and "complex", all of which I agree with. I also see a consensus around four stars which I would agree with if I did stars.

The evening ended well as I met the cast (both of them) afterwards and was able to tell them personally how much I enjoyed their performance and it was good to hear from them that they liked having people in the front row as they could not see much beyond that.

Cans is my sort of play and Theatre503 is my sort of theatre.

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